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Conciliation Court

Conciliation court (often referred to as small claims court) was created to allow the public the opportunity to bring their legal claims before the court without expensive costs, attorney's fees, or complicated legal procedures.  Conciliation court forms are available from the court administrator's office or the forms can be printed from www.mncourts.gov and filed with District Court.

You may bring a conciliation court claim against a resident of Kandiyohi County if the claim does not exceed $7,500.00.  Conciliation court can also order that property be returned.  However, claims involving the following are not allowed:

  • Title to real estate
  • Libel or slander
  • Class actions
  • Medical malpractice

You can reduce the amount of your claim so it can be heard in conciliation court.  If you do reduce your claim, you will not be allowed to ask for more money later.  You may not file any other claims related to the same incident.

What is the filing fee
What is the limit
How to file a claim
Where to return the claim form after it is completed
When to appear in court
What to do if your case settles before court
How to reschedule your court date
What happens if you receive a summons
How to file a counterclaim
How to prepare for the hearing
How to request a subpoena
What happens if you fail to appear for the hearing
What happens after the hearing
How to pay a judgment
How to appeal the judgment
What happens after an appeal has been filed
How to collect a judgment

The information contained on this site is not intended as legal advice but as a general guide to explain the legal process.

What is the filing fee?

What is the limit for Conciliation Court claims?
The maximum is $10,000.  The consumer credit transactions limit is $4,000.
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How to file a claim?

If you are filing a claim, you are the plaintiff.  The form for filing is available from the court administrator's office or online at www.courts.state.mn.us/ctformsYou must complete the form with the following information when you submit the claim for filing:

  • Your name and address and the exact full legal name and address of the defendant;
  • The amount of your claim and the reason for it.  Be as specific as possible.  If filing for non-payment of rent, indicate the months of the unpaid rent.  When filing for an auto accident, give the year and make of vehicle and the location of the accident. 
  • The date of the claim;
  • If asking for the return of property valued less than $7,500., clearly describe the property (i.e. color, year, serial no. etc.)

You must sign the claim in front of a notary public or come to the court administrator's office to sign the claim before a court deputy.

Bring any evidence like bills, notices, etc. with you to court.  Do not attach them to your claim.
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Where to file a claim in Conciliation Court?
Generally, you must file your claim in the county where the person you are making the claim against (the defendant) lives.  Exceptions include:

  • Most bad checks issued in Kandiyohi County (file in the county where the check was written)
  • Security deposit and rent (file where rental property is located)
  • Corporations are sued at place of business (consult the Security of State @ 651-296-2803) 
    (see Minn. Stat. Chapter 491A for other exceptions)

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Where to return the form after it is completed?
Return the entire completed form, or one page online form, along with the correct filing fee, payable to Court Administrator, to the court administrator's office.
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When to appear in Court?
You will be notified of the court hearing date and time by mail.  You must appear to present your evidence to the court at the date and time provided.

If your claim is $2,500 or less, the court administrator will serve the defendant by first class mail.  If the claim is more than that, it is the plaintiff's responsibility to serve the defendant by certified mail, return receipt requested.  It is the plaintiff's responsibility to file the "return receipt requested" green card with the court prior to the hearing date.
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What if the case settles before the court hearing date?
Many claims are settled once notice of the court hearing is received by the parties.  The party making the claim should notify the court of a settlement in writing as soon as possible.  This can be done by signing the "Notice of Settlement" on the "Statement of Claim and Summons" form and mailing it to the court administrator's office.
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What happens if you cannot come the day of the hearing?
If you have a conflict with the assigned court date, you may send a written request for a continuance to the court, with a copy to the other party.  This request must be received by the court administrator's office at least five working days prior to the hearing.  Each party is generally granted only one continuance.
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What happens if you receive a conciliation court summons?
You, the defendant may proceed in on e of the following ways if you are served with a conciliaton summons.

1. You may contact the plaintiff to discuss settling the case.
2. You may prepare to argue your case before the court at the hearing date adn time noted on the summons.
3. You may file a Counterclaim with the court if you think that the plaintiff owes you money.

If you ignore the summons, a default judgment may be entered ordering you to pay the amount plaintiff is requesting. If you are the defendant and you believe someone else is responsible for plaintiff's loss, you may bring a claim against the other person and ask the court to hear all related claims together.
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How to file a counterclaim?
You must file your counterclaim at least 5 working days before the hearing (Saturday, Sunday and holidays excluded) and pay the appropriate filing fee.  The counterclaim form is available from the court administrator's office or online at www.mncourts.gov.  The court administrator's office will notify plaintiff if a counterclaim is filed.

If the counterclaim exceeds the legal limit of conciliation court, you may waive the amount in excess of the limit, or file an affidavit stating:

  1. The existence of the counterclaim and that it exceeds the legal limits; and 
  2. That you have brought or will bring a claim in district court against the plaintiff within 30 days.  If you do not file your claim in district court within 30 days, plaintiff may have his/her conciliation claim reinstated.

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How to prepare for the hearing
Conciliation court hearings are informal, but you must be prepared to present your case.  Attorneys are allowed, but may participate only as much as the court allows.  Witnesses should be present and ready to testify.  All parties and witnesses who appear will testify under oath.  If a witness is reluctant to appear, you may obtain a subpoena to require them to appear.  A subpoena is available from the court administrator's office and there is a fee for issuing a subpoena (link to subpoena).  Written statements and affidavits of persons not present in court may have little value.

You should bring all evidence, such as receipts, repair bills, estimates, and other items which relate to the dispute with you to court.  You should prepare a list of facts you wish to present to the court.  Organize your presentation to make it clear and complete.  
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What happens if you fail to appear at the hearing?
If the defendant does not appear, a default judgment may be entered.  If plaintiff does not appear, the claim may be dismissed or a default judgment may be entered in favor of the defendant on any counterclaim.
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What happens after the hearing?
Normally, the court will not decide your claim at the time of the hearing.  When a decision is reached, you will receive a copy of the courts decision. A notice included on the document that you receive will tell you the date and time that the courts order becomes final.  All appeals must be completed by that date and time.  Read all notices and instructions carefully.
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How to pay a judgment
The court recommends that payment be made directly to the creditor (the party the money is owed to).  Payment may also be sent to the court, but the check must be made payable to the creditor and not district court.  The court will copy the check and show it has been satisfied.  The court will then forward the check to the creditor by mail.  Remember, judgment records are public and credit bureaus routinely take information from them.  If your judgment is not paid before it becomes final, it may have an adverse effect on your credit rating.

When you pay the creditor, obtain a statement of payment called a "Satisfaction of Judgment" from the party you paid and file it with the court.  If a satisfaction is not filed, your record will show an unsatisfied judgment which may affect your credit rating.
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How to appeal a judgment
Appeal procedures are more complex than those for the original filing.  Although it is not required, it is suggested that the appealing party be represented by an attorney.  Court staff are not attorneys and cannot practice law.  They cannot assist you in preparing your appeal.

Any party who appeared and is dissatisfied with the judgment of conciliation court may appeal to district court.  To do this, a form entitled "Demand for Removal" and an "Affidavit of Service" must be filed with the court administrator before the final judgment date.  The final judgment date is noted on your copy of the conciliation decision.  An additional district court appeal filing fee is required.

If you did not appear for a good reason in conciliation court and a default judgment was entered, you may send in a written request to have the judgment vacated.  An additional fee is required if the judge vacates the default judgment and schedules another hearing.  Read your conciliation judgment notice carefully.
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What happens after an appeal has been filed?
If the matter is appealed to the district court, a trial will take place before a different judge or a jury, if a jury trial is requested.  All parties may be represented by attorneys.  You should not rely on anything that was said or that happened at the conciliation court hearing.  You should be prepared to present your case, have your witnesses ready to testify, and have all your other evidence available.

If you appeal to the district court from the conciliation court judgment and do not win, you may be required to pay the other party $50.00.
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How to collect a judgment
Although a case was decided in your favor, it is not always easy to collect a judgment.  The collection process will be worthwhile only if you can locate collectable assets.  Judgments are enforceable for 10 years.

Conciliation Court is not a collection agency.  You can, however, try to collect the judgment yourself it it has not been paid by the date indicated on the judgment notice, and if an appeal has not been filed.  Here are a few tips on how you can locate the debtor and/or their assets:

  • County libraries have directories that may list the debtor's home address and place of employment;
  • You may be able to locate the debtor's bank by looking at any canceled checks that you might have written to the debtor;
  • You can find out whether the debtor has a motor vehicle registered under his/her name by contacting the Minnesota Motor Vehicles Records Division at 651-297-6911.  This may give you the name of the lender that the debtor is doing business with.

When your judgment is final and the debtor has not paid you, you may begin the collection process by following these steps:

  1. Complete an "Affidavit of Identification" to transcribe your judgment to district court.  Upon completion of the affidavit, submit it to the court administrator's office with the filing fee.  Your judgment will then be transcribed to district court.  This transcribed judgment will show up on the court's computer if someone does a judgment search.
  2. Order a "Writ of Execution" from court administration and pay the fee if you know where the debtor works and/or banks.  If you do not know either of these, you are not ready for an execution.  The Writ of Execution must be issued to the county where the debtor's bank or employer is located.  The court administrator's office will mail the execution to you and you must take it to the sheriff of that county for service on a bank or employer.  The sheriff will also charge a fee.
  3. If you do not know where the debtor works or banks, you may file a "Request for Order for Disclosure."  There is a filing fee per defendant's name when you submit "Request for Order for Disclosure" for filing with court administration.  You must wait 30 days after the judgment has been transcribed before filing a Request for Order for Disclosure.  The court administrator's office will then issue an "Order for Disclosure" and mail it to the debtor along with a Financial Disclosure form that the debtor should complete.  You will also be sent a copy.  The debtor is allowed 16 days to complete the disclosure form and forward it to you, which is 16 days from the date on the "Order for Disclosure."  It is your responsibility to supply the court with a current address for the debtor.

If you received a completed Financial Disclosure form from the debtor, you can then decide what options are available for collection.

If the debtor does not respond to the Order for Disclosure, you can complete an "Affidavit in Support of an Order to Show Cause" and schedule a court hearing before a judge.  When the hearing is scheduled, this office will issue an "Order to Show Cause."  It is your responsibility to have the debtor served with the Order to Show Cause .  This order can be served by the sheriff or any party who has no financial interest in the judgment.  It must be served on the debtor personally.  It cannot be left at his/her residence with anyone else.

The Order to Show Cause requires the debtor as well as the creditor to appear at a court hearing.  At the hearing the debtor will be instructed to complete the Financial Disclosure form or give the judge a valid reason for not doing so.  If the debtor fails to appear at this hearing, the judge may issue a warrant for the debtor's arrest for civil contempt of court.

  1. If you wish to have the cost of collection added to your judgment, you need to submit a notarized "Affidavit of Increased Costs" (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader) stating the collection costs you have incurred and that you wish these costs to be added to your judgment.  Attach copies of any receipts for services to your affidavit.
  2. If the judgment is paid in full by the debtor, it is your obligation to provide the debtor with a Satisfaction of Judgment (MSA §548.15).  The Satisfaction of Judgment must be filed with the court along with a filing fee.

If the judgment is for property damage sustained in an auto accident with an uninsured driver, you may wish to have the Commissioner of Public Safety suspend the driving privileges of the driver as leverage for payment.  The "Affidavit of Identification and of Unsatisfied Civil Judgment" form can be obtained from our office.  Court administration staff can help you file this 30 days after your judgment becomes final.  You will be charged a fee for the certified copy that must be sent to the Department of Public Safety.

If the sheriff or your attorney is unable to collect, or if you have determined that there are no assets to collect, it does not mean you will never collect your judgment.  A judgment in conciliation court is valid for 10 years.  This is important because the debtor may at some future time have collectable assets.  The fact that an unpaid judgment may affect the debtor's credit rating could result in voluntary payment at a later time.
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